piles of rare earths

China Loosens its Grip on Rare Earths

In the first step toward an 'abolition of export quotas,' China has instituted a system of export permits that could help slow the skyrocketing price of rare earth materials.

China has instituted a system of export permits for rare earth metals, used in hi-tech goods such as mobile phones, the government said, with state-run media describing the move as an abolition of export quotas.

China accounts for over 90% of global production of rare earths, a term covering 18 metals vital for the production of smartphones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, steel and low-energy light bulbs.

Export permits will be required, but will be issued whenever a valid trade contract is presented, the ministry of commerce said in a statement last week.

At the same time, officials abolished a quota system at the center of a World Trade Organization (WTO) case, the government-run Shanghai Securities News reported Monday.

Total Chinese exports never reached the quota limit, but it lost the long-running dispute when the WTO ruled in August that the system violated global trade rules.

The United States, the European Union and Japan had complained that China was limiting exports in a bid to drive up prices.

The complaint also said the quota was designed to gain market advantage for domestic producers with cheaper access to the raw materials.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

rare earth
For more, see: Rare Earths -- What are They and How are They Used?

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